Another nail in the coffin of dietary fads is the realisation that good health and fitness cannot be attained as the result of one single part of our lifestyle. In the main we seem to be missing the obvious. Everything we do has a consequence whether it is what we choose to eat or drink, whether we participate in physical activity or whether we involve ourselves in activities that stimulate the brain. It is the collective result that will determine our long-term well-being.
We need to see that the various parts of our life even the chores like shopping as part of the whole and what we put into the shopping basket has an influence on how we are.
Some years ago the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research produced 7 golden rules for healthy living. They are:
1. Keep a watchful eye on your weight, without becoming under-weight.
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
3. Limit consumption of energy dense foods – those high in fat or added sugar and low in fibre – and avoid sugary drinks.
4. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and pulses such as beans. Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
5. Limit consumption of red meat such as beef, pork or lamb to 500g a week and avoid processed meats.
6. Limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
7. It is best for mothers to breast feed exclusively for up to six months.
A recent study of nearly 380,000 participants, carried out at Imperial College, London, showed that those that stick to the seven golden rules can cut their risk of dying from any of the circulatory or respiratory diseases, including stroke and angina, by at least 34%. The risk of lung disease can be halved, and heart attacks slashed by as much as 44%.
I would add, quit smoking, as another essential but this study more than illustrates that we can take more control of our lives by mixing the individual activities and needs into a single purpose. The sort of questions to be asked, are: do we want to be more healthy so that we can inter-act with our children, do we want to avoid preventable illness so that we can take care of our children, do we want to avoid mental deterioration so that we don’t become a burden on our children, do we want to bring up healthy, active children.
It seems fitting that we see all these possibilities in context. The importance of our family’s health is not just a matter of joining the gym or the children’s school PE class but an inspection of the various life style aspects that maybe at this time are not beneficial.
Begin with eliminating non healthy foods from your diet and remove addictive foods from the refrigerator or storage cupboards. Banish them from the supermarket shopping trolley. Buy more fresh fruit and vegetables and increase your choice of meals with raw options.
Organise family exercise sessions. These can be in the yard, the local park or play area. Regular exercise increases the level of endorphins and helps reduce anxiety and depression. It also promotes better sleep. Who could wish for two better natural remedies that can be applied to unsuspecting children or teenagers.
Make it fun. Introduce new challenges, go for country walks or bicycle rides, but continue to participate as a family unit, so that the benefits are mutual.